The success and failure of potentially overworked goalies

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martinbrodeur2.jpgAbout a week ago I was struck with an idea to investigate how goalies who had a heavy workload during the regular season fared in the playoffs. After all, with the new trend going towards inexpensive goalies, it’s worth taking a look at goalies in general seeing as how those inexpensive goalies that have been successful of late in the NHL all had reasonably light workloads during the regular season. It seemed like a great idea to see if there was any correlation in recent NHL history or if this was truly an aberration year.

In a show of proof that in the Internet writing world you have to move fast lest you get beaten to the punch, Dustin Berfiend at SBN’s Mile High Hockey broke down how goalies that have played 80% or more of their teams games have done since the lockout.  The findings might startle you a bit if you’re a fan of goalies that start a ton of games for your team during the year.

Every season there is a debate about whether it’s smart to have a workhorse goalie. Some of the best goaltenders in the league (Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist, etc.) routinely start upwards of 70 games a year. Most of these teams are fairly successful (even the Rangers have made it to the playoffs every season except last since the lockout) but none of those goalies have won a Cup since the lockout. In fact, none of them have even been in a Stanley Cup final.

While we’re sure that fans of these teams and goalies were already aware of the lack of Stanley Cup victories, these findings lend themselves to the growing belief that overpaying for goaltending is a colossal waste of valuable cap space.

What Berfiend discovered is that 39 times since the lockout have goalies played in 80% or more of their team’s games. Of those 39 times, 14 of those teams missed the playoffs completely (35.8%) and 13 others were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs (33.3%). That’s 27 out of 39 (69%) of those workhorse goalies failing to get their teams even a slight modicum of success. If you’re willing to hang your hat on a team making the playoffs and calling that a great season then that’s your prerogative, but your team isn’t winning the Stanley Cup, at least not in this era.

What was most startling to read was how little regular season work goalies who played in the Stanley Cup finals got. Berfiend got that research done as well.

2005-2006: Dwayne Roloson started 42 games while Cam Ward started just 25 regular season games.

2006-2007: Ray Emery started 56 games while Jean-Sebastian Giguere started 53.

2007-2008: Chris Osgood started in 40 games while Marc-Andre Fleury started in 33.

2008-2009: Same two goalies, slightly different workload. Osgood started 44 while Fleury started in 61.

2009-2010: Antti Niemi started 35 games for Chicago while Michael Leighton started in 31 for Philly.

Out of all those, the goalie who saw the most work in his teams respective Finals appearance also managed to win the Stanley Cup (Fleury). A goalie getting worn down as the season goes along is nothing new and is something that should be counted upon, but overworking a goalie to keep your team alive throughout the regular season is something coaches should be keeping a better eye on. While having a great goalie like Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur does wonders for your team all throughout the year, keeping them fresh for when the games matter the most has to be vital to what any coach and any team that wants to win the Stanley Cup.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.